Indietail – Dyson Sphere Program [Guestpost]

Recently, I’ve asked people if they were interested in writing a guestpost on Indiecator, and alas we’ve got yet another review today here written by Naithin from Time to Loot. The game featured here, Dyson Sphere Program, is a lovely factorio-like game where you set out on a journey to create the ultimate intergalactic factory in space. I just recently played some of it myself and have really been enjoying it but as Naithin’s more into the whole genre, you should maybe listen to what he has to say about the game. If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out Naithin’s blog for more posts on all kinds games from RPGs to MMOs to Looter Shooters and even gaming-related topics like new trailers, interesting up-coming games, or Humble Choice. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may know that Naithin’s a big inspiration of mine and that I really like his blog, posts and the events that he likes to plan or participate in. My series on the Humble Choice of each month is inspired by him as well, so there’s that, too. I highly recommend checking out his blog!

Anyways, I hope you enjoy Naithin’s review:

Dyson Sphere Program has thrown down the gauntlet to Factorio and entered the ring with a select few other titles I consider to be part of the ‘Factorio-like’ genre. A genre that now ranges from the medieval with Factory Town through to the far-flung reaches of sci-fi space with this entry.

Developer: Youthcat Studio
Publisher: Gamera Game
Genre: Sci-Fi, Space, Automation, Base-Building, Simulation, Strategy, Management
Release Date: January 21st, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Despite the technological era — these games have a number of features incoming. The defining one perhaps being to solve the puzzle of bringing the ever-increasing material and component pieces together in the right places to automate the production of yet more things.

The risk is in getting lost and overwhelmed by the bigger picture. Particularly if you let the ruthless pursuit of efficiency be your guiding principle. I felt this starting out in Dyson Sphere Program. It is just so easy to get carried away by seeing the experts play and how they think about and approach the game.

The problem with that is you’ll hit a wall — likely sooner than later — and just stop. My first try at the game ended in exactly that way. I was already thinking several steps down the track to the automation of product manufacture that I wasn’t anywhere near yet. In response, my brain flipped me the double-bird and shut-off.

The early beginnings of my second start. I’ve brought the base materials together into a basic bus, and automated the generation of blue-science.

Where Dyson Sphere Program perhaps excels over Factorio — although this will of course be a matter of taste, I would argue it as a positive particularly for those looking to make a start in the genre — is that no given factory by necessity has to be overly large. The fact you can ultimately separate functions by planet and use interplanetary logistics systems to ship what you need around the place is a Godsend for making things perfectly playable in more manageable bite-sized chunks. What that means is, as I alluded to way back in the introduction, is that you can treat the game as a series of mini-puzzles. Small challenges to be met as and when they make sense for you to do so.

And I highly recommend approaching the game this way. Setting yourself mini-goals. Work toward the production of just one more thing at a time. It will become a spaghetti scramble your first time through.

Grown… Just a little since the last shot. Oil is now being extracted and refined into two different by-products, with the hydrogen being in turn fused with energised graphite into red science cubes!

But it doesn’t matter. Even if you work yourself into a corner — here’s the thing:

You are never penalised for building ‘wrong’. You can uplift any structure, conveyor belt, sorter, or anything else and be just… Yoink it into your inventory. Generally, with no materials lost either — the exception here being fluid storage. If you need to move a fluid storage container around, you will lose it’s contents, unfortunately.

But here’s the other thing. There’s also no time pressure beyond what you bring with you. You won’t lose for having a low APM. Nothing is going to explode. So, if it’s a fluid you’ve had difficulty storing, you can — if you wish — choose to drain it out to a new site before moving the original container.

You have time.

What I’m trying to get across here is that Dyson Sphere Program can be played without any stress. It is in fact quite a peaceful, chill game to play. But only with the understanding that nothing bad will happen if you slow down. I don’t think the game conveys that very well. So I hope to do it for it, for your benefit.

A look at my position on a solar scale. On a wiiiiddle tiny moon, orbiting a gas giant.

If it isn’t clear yet — I’ve really enjoyed my time with Dyson Sphere Program, and it’s an easy recommend to anyone who either enjoys the Factorio-like genre already or those who just like puzzle games. For genre veterans, the expansive interstellar scope is something you just won’t get in any of the other genre offerings to date. The ability to send logistics drones across the dark void of space to meet the supply and demand of your earlier bases is fantastic.

All this is supported by the research tree you might be familiar with from these games, opening up new materials or componentry or best of all — new logistics options! But on top of that, there is also a set of upgrades specific to your mech — your avatar in the game — ranging from the basics like faster movement speed or bigger inventory to increased construction drone capacity to varying levels of flight and more.

Hard to see from this angle, but I’ve essentially used all available land behind the factory there. So I’ve brought my main bus up and over the coal and water here, onto some pristine land for future development.

So! Don’t let the Early Access label scare you off. Dyson Sphere Program is one of the more complete Early Access titles I’ve seen. If I was to quibble about anything it would be the New Player Onboarding process (aka, the tutorial). Which is a giant shame given the potential appeal Dyson Sphere Program could have in bringing new players to the genre. The tutorial right now is… lacking, to say the least. The guided play portion is incredibly brief with the remainder being largely presented via the occasional pop-up pointing you at the game’s in-built encyclopaedia. Which to be fair — isn’t bad by any stretch. It just isn’t the most welcoming thing ever for a new player to deal with. Normally in this case, particularly for a game with this potential for complexity I would say — watch Let’s Plays to learn. And I think I still will offer that advice. Just… Don’t forget what I told you here today. Don’t let any optimisation considerations from others shape your own concerns while playing.

Just take it at your own pace and enjoy.

Editor’s Note: Magi here, again. Personally speaking I also really enjoyed DSP and can also recommend it. As Naithin mentions, there isn’t really a wrong way of doing things in the game. You can get away with a lot of things and I love that there’s no pressure in it, especially as someone that likes to optimize things in these types of games. Really glad to be able to feature Naithin over here. Can’t recommend his blog enough! Check him out!

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got any thoughts on DSP or the guest post format? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. This post was written by Naithin from Time to Loot.

Indietail – Breathedge

After your grandfather’s funeral ship crashed, you’re stranded in space. Just you, your immortal chicken and an AI/board computer that tells way too many jokes. Welcome to Breathedge, the “ironic space survival game” by Redruins Softwork that is releasing its version 1.0 today! I’ve been playing it on and off ever since it came out in Early Access two years and a bit more ago… and as time went on, I really wanted to like but… you’ll see.

Developer: RedRuins Softworks
Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Genre: Open World, Survival, Space, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Sandbox
Release Date: February 25th, 2021
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

In Breathedge, you’ve got to survive hunger, thirst, radiation, freezing temperatures and the lack of oxygen in outer space. Easy enough. Throughout your playthrough, you’ll find resources floating around that you then can craft into tools and equipment to venture further into space or to access new types of resources, such as rubber, lead or paint. Your goal is first and foremost survival… but you also want to get to safety, which is why you’ll have to find ways to reach distant points of interest, such as an extraction point that is way too far away.

In the beginning, your oxygen reserves are limited. When you venture out from your shipwreck, you’ll find yourself quickly running out of oxygen, which is why you’ll have to come back to your ship and replenish your reserves. While this is somewhat interesting, especially with the fluid and fun movement in space, it also makes things rather tedious. Collecting resources and having to come back to base every time you run out of oxygen is annoying and while I get that resource gathering is key in these type of games… I don’t see a point in tool durability and having to craft a completely new drill whenever its durability/battery runs out… It’s quite maddening, to say the least.

Eventually, you’ll venture out and find the blueprint for the oxygen station that you can then use to set up balloons that you can refill your oxygen at, making the journey and resource gathering less annoying. You’ll also craft other upgrades for your suit to withstand the radiation or to increase your oxygen reserves, but generally speaking, I feel like it all is more leaning into the annoying to the tedious side of things instead of actually adding value to the experience. The upgrades you can get for your tools merely function as some sort of band-aid that lessens the frustration… but it is not enough, in my opinion. Getting rid of the durability mechanic completely would have made the game more enjoyable in the early stages. As mentioned before, you’ll also need to watch out for your food and hydration, which is standard-survival-stuff… Breathedge doesn’t completely re-invent the wheel or the formula for survival with these mechanics. It just does things because other games did the same things, which isn’t very exciting.

Now, where Breathedge truly shines is actually the exploration and the presentation. As far as exploration goes, you’ll find different wrecks of different spaceships floating around, functioning as eye-catchers that will allow you to pin-point more points of interest. Your oxygen reserves are, as mentioned before, limited, so you’ll need to test your limits, find something good to utilize in your next exploration attempts, and get back to base. Slowly, you’ll learn where to find different resources and where you have to go later once you have more oxygen available. It is very much a trial and error kind of thing but I personally felt as if it was rather interesting and somewhat innovative… until I realised that Subnautica and other games did it before as well.

As far as the presentation goes, Breathedge delivers really well. The art style is rather pretty, outer space looks amazing, and eventually, you’ll unlock base-building and you’ll be able to add windows to stare out into the void… which is just beautiful when you play with the highest settings. The soundtrack features some interesting tracks… and some rather pretty tracks… all in all rather satisfying… if it weren’t for the AI thing that narrates your journey.

Now, I’ll have to mention that the developers label the game as an “ironic” space-survival game. See it as Subnautica… but less serious. You’ll find yourself in a setting that is truly difficult to handle with depleting resources and oxygen troubles… but the AI that accompanies you constantly mocks the game and tropes of the Survival genre and the gaming industry, resulting in the whole setting being rather laughable. The plot itself is somewhat presentable and fun… but the AI makes it feel less enjoyable by constantly cracking jokes at anything and everything. Breathedge opens with a message about how the game is just trying to entertain and how it doesn’t want to offend anyone… but… the jokes are hit or miss.

Most of the jokes that the AI tells you or that you encounter in the game are seriously offensive and inappropriate. There are some good ones here and there with references to Mass Effect or other games… There are jabs that the game takes at other games but generally speaking, you’ll find yourself trying to ignore the jokes as much as possible. The notice at the beginning references some real offensive and inappropriate jokes in the game that aren’t fun or anything. I’m alright with explicit or even some more offensive humour if it’s within certain borders (“haha, like East Germany in”… Okay, I’ll stop.) but this game is just trying too hard to be offensive and thinks that it’s alright to do so if you mention it at the beginning of the game. At one point, I found the game making fun of men that wear makeup while at another part the game makes fun of “libtards”… Generally, I didn’t enjoy a lot of the jokes because they were tasteless or silly. Crafting an accelerator powered by farts is something that grade-schoolers would laugh at but they are hardly the target audience of the game.

Apart from that the game also suffers from pacing. You’ll find yourself held hostage and interrogated by coffin-robots that want you to tell everything that happens but as time goes on, you completely forget about it, which is just… weird. The resource grinding, the durability of tools, the constant trips back and forth for oxygen, food and water,… there are so many things that slow you down considerably and it makes the game just feel very slow to the point where you lose interest in playing more of it. When you die, you’ll have to pray that there was an auto-save an hour ago or something, or you’ll quickly end up ragequitting because of all the progress you lost. Alas, I just save every few minutes in case something happens that makes me want to reload the save again… or in case I die… and all in all, I really wanna like the game but it’s just not that fun unless you only play it on and off…

And again, the game is trying so hard to be like other games but also not be like other games. I feel like they could have tried out more innovative ideas regarding food and oxygen or other mechanics of the game. Breathedge frankly only goes where other games have gone before and it doesn’t really try to do things differently or be crazy and creative around its systems. It’s only a small step for the gaming industry but a big step for this Indie Studio. I mean, RedRuins Softworks are a Russian studio whose first project, Breathedge, has gained a lot of

Hope you enjoyed this post. It’s a bummer that the game has so many shortcomings and I kind of enjoyed it after ignoring the jokes… but I just feel like I can’t get into it for too long unless I take some long breaks in-between sessions. Oh well…

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – In Other Waters

It’s always a pleasure to see well-executed world-building in games and media. Reading up on lore entries, piecing together a world and exploring every nook and cranny for potential hints at what holds the world together at its core (yes, that’s a Faust reference). It’s a pleasure to see games create an immersive experience that enables exploration and narration in different ways than what we’re used to, and while “immersion” has become more of a buzzword as of late, I’m more than happy to have played through “In Other Waters“, game that made me understand better what immersion actually is.

Developer: Jump Over The Age
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Genre: Non-Violent, Sci-Fi, Underwater, Adventure, Exploration, Simulation
Release Date: April 3rd, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch
Copy was purchased.

In “In Other Waters”, you play as an Artificial Intelligence (or A.I. for short) that is guiding a stranded xenobiologist through a beautiful and mysterious alien ocean. Explore the depths of Gliese 677Cc and help Ellery Vas uncover the secrets that lie beneath the secret. After being called to this planet by Minae Nomura, Ellery finds herself in an abandoned base in an ocean of secrets with only you around to keep her company.

“In Other Waters”‘s non-violent Sci-Fi story is portrayed through the eyes of Ellery/EV who’s trying to find and rescue her old partner, Minae. To do so, she needs you, an A.I., to guide her through the ocean. Alas, you need to scan the environment, find points of interest and navigate towards them. You are experiencing the game through the UI, rendering the world around you in a topographic visual style. You only see the UI, which is interesting as a design choice. I found it rather intriguing and really enjoyed this take on exploration. These overlays, buttons and features at first feel clunky and hard to navigate through but eventually, these menus actually feel somewhat homely and suddenly, you actually know how to move through the world swiftly and what to look out for.

As time goes on, you’ll encounter life on this distant planet. Creatures roam the area, plants inhabit different biomes and areas. A click on them reveals information on their behaviours and once you’ve scanned multiple specimens, Ellery will end up naming them and adding theses to the taxonomy as well as observations and quite possibly even a sketch of them. The game actively encourages you to collect samples of plants and other matters by tying them into the world-building or introducing gameplay mechanics around them. Some of the plant seeds can be used to open pathways while others can protect you from vicious currents.

Since you’re the UI of Ellery’s dive suit, you’ve also got to manage your oxygen and power reserves and keep an eye on them as you explore more and more. Your lifelines can be resupplied with plant matter and animal tissues, among other things. There are also other ways to create safe zones or help you out in the game and I found these interactions rather amazing as they added value to what you found out about the world and to how the world works. Frankly, you make an observation of the world around you and make use of that observation, which is a rather interesting take on gameplay, but I would have loved to see more of those in the game apart from the three or four that you have in there.

The immersion is further enhanced by the fact that different areas look differently in the UI. In the abyss of the oceans, there is little to no light, so your sensors can’t pick up on your surroundings that well, resulting in your UI being darker. In other areas, the colour of your UI changes completely due to rust and other materials covering your lamps and tinting them. It’s an interesting mechanic and with the bright colours that usually make up the world, I feel like these UI colour changes add a bit more to the world. It kind of makes sense, after all. You’re a program, a machine, after all, so you get influenced by that kind of stuff.

You are Ellery’s eyes and legs in this world, controlling every move and action. But you’re also Ellery’s friend and only companion in this somewhat depressing world. Frequently, Ellery talks about the observations she makes and her feelings on the events happening to you and her. Her discoveries are shared with you. In a way, it reminds me of Robinson Crusoe’s ball that acts as if his only friend for the early days before he eventually meets Friday. Talking to you keeps Ellery sane to the point where she asks you questions on speculations and theories, even if you’re just an AI. She asks for your input at times and you can answer with just a no or a yes… but while your options are limited in that way, it feels truly meaningful when you get a response from EV and when you actually can communicate with her and help her out from time to time. This aspect of the game felt really meaningful and awesome to me.

The gameplay mechanics range from research and exploration to these brief interactions with Ellery. You can read up on logs written by Ellery whenever you’re in your base or you can dive into the waters to collect samples and complete the taxonomy. In the lab, you’re able to analyse matters and unlock more entries for the taxonomy, too. Nothing’s ever forced and you can go on with the exploration and the story whenever you want to. This sort of pacing felt incredibly well-executed. If you don’t like the research, for instance, you can just go on with exploration or the story. Dying brings you back to a nearby checkpoint with no losses, which is quite nice. At times, I wanted to find out more about the story… at other times, I just wanted to roam the area more and find out about the world and see places I haven’t been to. When I died, I got set back a bit on the map but it didn’t feel too bad or frustrating, which is great as frustration would have ruined the experience for me.

All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and was able to play through “In Other Waters” after about eight hours. Depending on how much you explore and how long you spend in different areas, you may find yourself spending more time on this title. The soundtrack is amazing, the game is pretty, the story is interesting, and the world… is alive. Being the A.I. and seeing the world through that UI makes it all fit together and enables you to experience the game differently from how other games would have handled it and while I obviously haven’t been sucked into the game completely, I’d still call this “immersion”. I’m sure there is more to the term than just that but all in all, I can’t stress enough how great this game is and how “In Other Waters” actually is a great example of what “immersion” actually is, in contrast to the buzzword that big magazines throw around in their reviews on Cyberpunk 2077, for instance.

Alas, that’s my recommendation for today. I really hope you enjoyed this review. After writing this review, I checked what the negative reviews on Steam had to say about this game and overall, I just feel like people got into the game expecting something else entirely. The story is conveyed through text. The UI is the main feature. The world feels lively. I don’t get why people play a non-violent game about exploration only to complain about it being “actionless”, which is a bit of a bummer… Certainly, it’s not a game for everyone but if you tackle it in the right way, it can be certainly worthwhile.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Do Not Feed The Monkeys [Guest Post]

Recently, I’ve asked people if they were interested in writing a guest post for my blog. Today’s review is written by Quietschisto from RNG and features a game called “Do Not Feed The Monkeys“, which is a dystopian digital voyeur simulator where you watch strangers through surveillance cameras. You invade their privacy and witness their most intimate moments… but you shall not interact with the subjects as anything could happen if you dare feed the monkeys! If you enjoy this post, make sure to check out Quietschisto’s Blog for more video-game related content. His posts mostly focus on how the games he played could be improved but Quietschisto also writes about food around the world and cocktails. 

Alas, enjoy Quietschisto’s review:

My name’s Quietschisto, and I’m super stoked to be here! Our host, the gracious Dan, has offered some spots for guest posting, and I was more than happy to oblige. Today I bring you a short review of a fun little game called “Do Not Feed The Monkeys“.

Originally, Do Not Feed The Monkeys was just one of many observation-based games (like Beholder or Orwell) I wanted to try out. However, I ended up playing through it in a single night…twice. That alone should tell a lot about the game’s quality since none of its main features are things that I normally would enjoy.

Developer: Fictiorama Studios, BadLand Games Publishing S.L.
Publisher: Alawar Premium
Genre: Simulation, Choices Matter, Resource Managment, Voyeur
Release Date: October 24th, 2018
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4, Android, XB1
Copy was purchased.

For example, I couldn’t care less about pixel-graphics, I’m usually not a fan of slapstick humour, and resource management/survival mechanics and time-limits are things I try to avoid most of the time. But “Do Not Feed The Monkeys” carefully balances all of its elements to deliver a fun, streamlined experience that lasts around two or three hours, plus more if you want to see other cages and more monkeys.

The core gameplay-loop is always the same: You obtain information mostly by watching the monkeys in their cages at certain times, listening to their conversations, and writing down keywords. Through making connections on your own and “googling” the correct combination of phrases you gain more and more information that you can use to affect the outcome of the situation, for better or for worse.

At the same time, you have to manage your sleep, hunger, health, and money, all while continually buying more rooms/cameras. For adversaries of resource management, this might seem off-putting at first, but these mechanics essentially only boil down to managing a single resource: Time. These mechanics and time-limits are pretty bare-bones, however, and I believe they are only in place so players can’t “farm” resources at the start of the game and then just breeze through the whole experience.

I don’t think the resource-management aspect adds a lot to the game, as I personally am against creating an artificial sense of urgency. Instead, additional cages could unlock automatically, and the optional objectives could have been mandatory. This way, I feel players could have been enabled to spend more time interacting with the interesting part of the game, watching the monkeys.

There is a game mode where your resource meters drain significantly slower (and achievements are disabled) as some sort of “easy mode” but I think this is a relatively weak solution since making a potentially unattractive feature less important makes players wonder why it is in the game in the first place.

Despite their simplicity, the puzzles or “cages” offer surprising depth and encourage multiple playthroughs. Due to the short nature of the game and relative density of the lore (as well as multiple endings for all rooms), Do Not Feed The Monkey never overstays its welcome, even when the player inevitably will revisit the same rooms over and over again.

Notice how I said density of lore instead of depth. While not connected, every room has its own short story going on, ranging from comedy classics (although some might call them “cheap jokes”) like a paranoid alien-conspiracy theorist, a discount Hitler, or a mind-controlling plant, all the way to more serious topics like an astronaut trapped on an abandoned space station or an ageing rock singer who suffers from a terminal disease. 

First and foremost, Do Not Feed The Monkeys is a comedy game, so the jokes are always in the foreground, although the “lighter” comedy elements were sometimes a bit too hamfisted for my taste. What impressed me was the elegance with which the “heavier” topics were handled. A lot of the rooms have at least one or two moments that can make you stop and think about what’s going on and what you’re doing there. At the same time, the game made it easy to ignore all that and just stroll along for some laughs if that’s more to your liking. Part of this definitely is due to the pixelated art style, which helps with the comic-like presentation and softens the blow a bit for the more serious (or gross) bits. 

Do Not Feed The Monkeys further adds to the comedy of the game by displaying the protagonist as a run-down lowlife, barely making ends meet through dead-end jobs. He’s unwittingly getting ripped off by his landlady and lives in a filthy apartment, yet he still believes himself to be above other humans. Even the sound design is used to reinforce this portrayal. You see, there is no soundtrack in the traditional sense. Instead, your “neighbours” are blasting distorted music throughout the day and even the night, adding a bit of a muffled sound to your observation while other times you get to listen to crickets, cars and other “sounds”.

All in all, I don’t think that Do Not Feed The Monkeys will make you see the comedy genre with new eyes but be prepared for a few all-nighters. The game is serious enough to make you stop and think about morality and empathy and other topics while it is also lighthearted enough to simply serve as a fun experience. Hence, I recommend this game to you.

Editor’s Note: Magi here. I personally really enjoyed Do Not Feed The Monkeys but haven’t had the time yet to review it or write about it. I honestly have some drafts on topics featured in the game but thought I should review it first before I could write about it. Alas, I’m glad that Quietschisto got to write about it. Make sure to check him out if you haven’t yet! He’s a great friend of mine and blogger that more people definitely should check out, in my opinion. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got any thoughts on Do Not Feed The Monkeys? Got any feedback for the guest post format? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post originated on Indiecator and was first published on there by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. This post was written by Quietschisto from RNG.

Indietail – Drake Hollow

After my post about Drake Hollow and why I’m so excited and after the interview we did with TMF’s Forrest Dowling,… It finally is time for my review on Drake Hollow. Welcome to yet another Indietail! And I’m excited about this one!

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: The Molasses Flood
Genre: Colony Sim, Base Building, Exploration, Co-Op, Open World
Release Date: October 1st, 2020
Reviewed on: PC (solo)
Available on: PC, Xbox One
Copy was purchased.

Drake Hollow is an action village-building game that you can play solo or with your friends. After a breakup, the protagonist is seen dwelling on a rock before a speaking crow approaches them and invites them into a new world where they are needed. Welcome to the Hollow where the Drakes are threatened by various creatures and where familiars roam the lands searching for people like you that can help the Drakes. The Drakes are small little creatures that need food, water and entertainment. They can literally die of boredom as the game emphasizes on multiple occasions. You build your small little village, go out on explorations and defend against the various enemies found in the game.

This gameplay loop of exploring, building and looting is the main aspect of the game. It keeps the game fresh and prevents it from becoming stale. As you find loot, you’re able to craft items, build defence and utility structures, take care of the Drakes and eventually, you’ll get a ten-minute countdown to the next raid that is coming in and needs defending. The Drakes help the player by being absolutely adorable and bringing in some life into the world… and they also gift you items and provide you with various buffs that help you survive, improve your combat capabilities, or influence your efficiency in various regards.

Speaking of combat, it is all relatively simple. You have a melee and a ranged attack on the mouse buttons. You’re able to find weapons and ammunition by looting old buildings and other islands. The fun thing is that anything can and will be a weapon: From a coat rack to a tennis bat to a rake or a weed whacker. I enjoyed finding fun and interesting weapons that could be categorized into heavy and light weapons. The aiming with the ranged weapons felt quite nice and while melee combat isn’t the most complicated, I noticed that you can cancel some of the animations and get more DPS in than usual if you put in some practice. Overall, I enjoyed the combat experience a ton! Especially stuff like jump attacks, combos and the right dodge timing can be more than satisfying – and then different enemy types feature different move sets and counters of sorts.

Where the game really shines though is the exploration part. A purple-ish mist known as the Aether envelops the world of Drake Hollow that damages the player. The world consists of mostly islands that aren’t connected at all. Hence, you’ll have to use craftable crystals to make yourself immune to the mist for a bit to get to the next islands. 

As time goes on, you’ll need other means of travelling where my highlight comes in: Waypoints. You place them down and connect them to supply trucks (with resources that you cannot access in any other way). Once two or more are linked up, you have a rail system of sorts where you grind your way rather speedily from one island to the next. I really enjoyed this part as I always wanted to explore more but then got disrupted by incoming raids, full inventories or dying drakes. 

Drakes tend to “die” of a lot of things. As you progress, you’ll have to take care of the various needs and pay attention to how much water, food and entertainment you produce. Resources around you deplete eventually, so you need to move on to the next set of islands, which is similar to The Flame In The Flood where you move your base/boat from one island to the next with a point-of-no-return mechanic. 

As you move on to the next set of islands, you get to explore and loot more without having to fear about your old buildings getting lost. The Drakes just pack up your base and take it with you to the next set of islands. The next set of islands plays in a different season with different mechanics. In summer, your water production may suffer a lot due to droughts. In Winter you have to build radiators and other buildings to thaw out your Drakes and production facilities. I found these mechanics quite neat but mostly, I loved how the islands change. The usually lush trees turn pink and red and white and lose leaves and the world is covered in a layer of snow when you encounter winter. The way you have to change your playstyle based on the seasons is a very interesting mechanic and I really enjoyed that.

Stronger enemies mean more damage and more danger. What happens when you die? Do you lose any progress when you die? No, not at all. You can revive at your camp and lose some weapon durability but you do not lose any progress. Your drakes don’t really “die”. You can revive them on the neighbouring island, although you will have to nurture them again. You can spirit walk to your dead body and resurrect it there as well. 

It comes to no surprise that I’m loving the overall presentation. I was the most hyped about the Drakes and was not disappointed at all when I saw their animations and behaviours. Follow the Drakes as they roam your small village, eat food, dance on the disco floor, go to sleep or burrow themselves when they get stuck somewhere. The world itself feels lively and features this vibrant style that changes with the seasons and is always stunning to look at. The Drakes have some great interactions with enemies and the player. The soundtrack is at times enigmatic and mysterious, at times adventurous! Overall, I’m loving the presentation, the soundtrack and the art style and I was quite satisfied with how the game turned out in the end.

And yes, of course, there are some issues here and there. When I started playing, the end-game was somewhat frustrating with resources running out, Drakes dying and enemies getting stronger while you felt a bit too weak… but that was mostly my fault as I moved on too fast or as I didn’t level my camp and didn’t unlock enough new facilities or I didn’t manage my camp properly. There are certain issues in the late game that can feel a bit overwhelming in solo, but I’m sure that you’ll do just fine if you play with up to four friends – with someone exploring and people defending and someone tending to the Drakes. For people that didn’t want to end their journey, the “The Molasses Flood” team added an endless mode (Sandbox) without a story but with a raised max camp level, new cosmetics and higher camp levels. The game will get more updates. They just added in filters for the depot to allow to view items by type as well as some other QOL changes.

In the end, the only thing that could be criticised would be the end-game that feels a tad frustrating or rather overwhelming as a solo player. The gameplay loop is satisfying, the combat feels nice, the Drakes are absolutely adorable, and overall, I’m loving this game so far and can’t wait to meddle with sandbox mode and to play it with friends eventually!

You can currently get the game on Xbox Game Pass and Steam. Cross-Saving between Win10 and XboxOne is available and there is Cross-Play available for the Windows Store, the Xbox One and the Game Pass versions of the game… but it doesn’t work for the Steam version as there is no native support for invites or hosting across these networks. The game keeps getting updated and I can highly recommend it! Check it out over here or on Game Pass, the Windows Store or wherever! 

As a side note:
You’re able to grab Drake Hollow on Steam with a 10% launch discount until the 8th of October! If you already own TMF’s “The Flame In The Flood” you also get an additional 15% off, resulting in a 25% discount on the game!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Kill It With Fire

Winter is coming… which means that it’s springtime for spiders again. Usually, you see more in spring and summer, which is horrifying, but lately, I noticed that the heinous beasts love to get inside when it’s cold outside. Hence, it’s springtime… for spiders… in Germany! 

It’s been a while since we reviewed a title called “Kill It With Fire: Ignition“, which is why we’re now looking at the full game, “Kill It With Fire”. Before we get into it, let me just panic while I search for actual spiders in the different corners of my flat. It’s a scary world we live in, after all!

Developer: Casey Donnellan Games LLC
Publisher: tinyBuild
Genre: Action, Simulation, Comedy, Demolition, Casual
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Release Date: August 13th, 2020
Copy was sent by the devs.

So, what exactly is “Kill It With Fire“? – In Essence, it’s a “demolitionist’s wet dream” where you have to find and exterminate all kinds of spiders in different environments. To do so, you slap them, whack them, burn them, shoot them, slice them, and use all kinds of other weapons and objects to kill them all – while potentially also destroying a whole bunch of things in your flat, office, or in other areas.

Just like in the demo, you’re spawning into (presumably) your low-poly-house where you’re tasked with picking up your vase and opening a few drawers, as a small tutorial, I guess. Then you pick up your clipboard with more tasks and use it to punish spiders… for existing. 

Starting at that point, you’ve got to figure the game out yourself. You have certain drawers and doors, only available to you after you killed a certain amount of spiders. Other drawers aren’t available until you’ve finished a few tasks. Overall, this system gates your progress a little bit which I find necessary as you have to kill all of them. Kill them all. With Fire or not, whatever you feel like. 

In the starting level, I jumped a few times when I found a spider in an unusual spot. That’s something I could have and would have missed out on if I was able to leave immediately to go to the next area.

Among your repertoire of weapons, you have all kinds of tools to kill those gruesome creatures with. Use your clipboard, a pan, deodorant & a lighter, it’s your choice… but other objects have also found their way into your collection, like shurikens and C4! Hence, the weapons get more and more absurd and hilarious, the more you unlock and offer you a lot of different mechanics to play around with. For instance, spiders get lured in by cheese puffs… but the different flavours seem to have their own mysterious effects, as well!

All of this gets collected over a variety of nine different levels, including your home area, a Japanese-style garden, an office, a barn and a very secret military basis! 

The variety of levels is a lot of fun to play around, especially with certain side-tasks that you can do in different areas, like “washing the dishes” or “shopping”. It’s fun to go for those side-tasks, which was a bit of a surprise for me as I usually tend to get tired of games when there are tasks that are a bit fidgety or require you to have some finesse or patience.

The game’s held relatively simple with an aforementioned low-poly-style and little gimmicks in the world instead of grand graphics. The spiders are held a bit cartoony so they didn’t bother me too much. At times, of course, I got spooked by them, but over all, it wasn’t as bad as in other games featuring spiders. As far as the music goes, however, I must say that it’s grand! The jazzy vibes of the music are great and I love the small chime you hear when you open drawers or doors. Now and then, you hear some spider sounds but most of the time, you’ll get to experience a small tune here and there, accompanying your character, similar to the piano in Untitled Goose Game!

Overall, I really enjoyed Kill It With Fire. It offers you a lot of upgrades and customizable options on top of fun achievements to work towards, but there are a few things that I didn’t quite like.

One of them would be that the final level features a lot of content-gating as it urges you to backtrack but I didn’t enjoy that part too much. Instead, I would have loved to see small secrets in the final level that are gated to collectables and optional tasks, while still being able to continue with the final mission as usual. Just a small thing that I got a bit annoyed by. 

Another thing would be weapon variety… There are a lot of different weapons from normal utility items to guns to fire weapons and whatever category a saw launcher fits in… but I personally felt that all of the weapons leaned into only one direction or so. We have fire weapons and guns… Usually, fire is your weapon of choice anyway, but I just kind of felt like there was a market here that didn’t get touched upon. I would have loved to see more knives or even a katana. I would have loved to go crazy on people with a football. I would have liked it if you could pick up any and all objects and throw them at spiders as a weapon in all levels. Of course, you can pick up and throw books at them… but if that’s your weapon of choice, you won’t be able to use it in the Barn area as there’re no books nearby.

Overall, though, considering the game’s length, I wouldn’t say I minded that part too much. It’s just something that I would have liked to see more of. Overall, I had a lot of fun playing the game. After 4.3 hours, I got all the achievements and unlockables, which was fun to do. Considering the price, I would definitely recommend “Kill It With Fire” to others, though it is somewhat short, so keep that in mind.

As a small note at the end of this review, I requested to get an affiliate link for this game and actually got one. So, if you decide on buying this game, you may do so using this link and while you don’t have to pay any extra, I’ll get a commission for refering you over there. While I don’t want to commercialize my blog or anything like that, I’d like to potentially use links like that (with a big disclaimer like this) in the future to potentially earn a little bit that I then could invest into the blog again. I could, for instance, get my own domain and get it hosted somewhere else… or maybe go for a paid theme… or potentially, I could fund new game purchases using that.
Hence, you don’t have to do that, but you can if you want to.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Occupy White Walls

Art is something that should be accessible to everyone… but it’s a bit rough to get into. I don’t know a lot about art but I do enjoy going to exhibitions and museums – and while I don’t know a lot of the big names or techniques or epochs or whatever… I don’t think that I need to.

But there are often people that make it hard for newbies like me to get into that hobby. It’s hard to enjoy something like that if other people constantly are talking in a very condescending way with you while wielding big words and termini that you don’t understand.

Today we’re taking a look at Occupy White Walls, an art gallery simulation game that is trying to fight that problem. It’s trying to make art accessible to everyone – in a very unique way.

Developer: StikiPixels
Publisher: StikiPixels
Release Date: November 14th, 2018
Genres: Casual, Art, Simulation, Multiplayer
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was available for free.

In Occupy White Walls, you create your own gallery. You build it from scratch using different floors, walls and structures, which feels quite sandbox-ish. You also are able to buy paintings, photographs and drawings of famous and underrated artists, so that you’re able to… occupy… those white walls… yup!

My gallery is nowhere near finished but it’s looking cool so far, even though I’m only using glass panes right now. I’ll probably completely rebuild all of this at a later date – but for now this is already turning out quite well!

By opening your gallery you’re able to earn more money… and by buying new artworks, you unlock new structures, frames and other cosmetic features.

What’s very lovely about this is that the whole game is kind of built like an MMO of sorts… You’re able to visit your friends’ galleries or teleport to a random user’s gallery: You comment in their guest books or have discussions with other people on different paintings. You open their gallery so that they earn money while you’re enjoying the paintings… and when you see something that you like, you can put it on your wishlist or buy it yourself!

The tricky bit to Occupy White Walls is that you cannot just search for paintings. You cannot go for Van Gogh, da Vinci, Munch or Sargent and just take their paintings. Instead, the game works with artificial intelligence called Daisy that essentially recommends paintings to you based on your preferences. You then are able to find more paintings that are similar to the paintings you pick or you even search for more paintings by the same artist.

I love this view over here to bits!

Using this method, I was able to find an artist called LARSKRISTO who does a lot of very colourful and obscure pieces but also creates very dark and enigmatic paintings… I really love his style!

Another great feature of OWW is the information that you get about each painting. You can learn about the background of the artist and some other information if you look at a painting. Most paintings have a ton of information available and hence you can also discuss interpretations with others and analyze these paintings yourself, if that’s your jam – or you just look at them and enjoy the view: All based on your preferences!

And Daisy learns from the pictures that you buy and is always to find something new and interesting for you – and if there is nothing of interest in the selection, you can always request more. So far it has been fairly accurate for me… and just now I found about de Goya and that I actually like his stuff…

The game is completely free to play and progression is purely based on your creations: You build up buildings and galleries and buy new paintings or unlock new cosmetic features for your avatar but you’re never asked to pay a single dollar out of your actual pocket – in case you really want to, you can support the developers by buying the game’s official soundtrack.

Moonlight Surgery by Alnilam is one of the paintings that I found today.

Speaking of the soundtrack, it is just enigmatic and mesmerizing. There are a lot of very relaxing pieces there that perfectly work with what you’re doing. It’s relatively easy to sink a lot of time into this game once you found some pieces that you like and once you’ve got an idea of what you want to do.

Originally, I planned on having a “café” or bar of sorts with a lot of different seating areas and art pieces around it… but I need to be a higher level for that to unlock some other furniture pieces. Hence, I’m right now working with a different concept of a gallery in a glass box of sorts that is surrounded by an ocean and that features a lot of surreal and contemporary pieces. So far so good… I’ll revisit the café/bar idea later, though!

When you open your gallery, you’re getting joined by bots that wander through your gallery and look at paintings. After a while, they explode into paint splashes and leave money on your desk that you then can collect to invest it into more paintings or more space, furniture and building materials. Every now and then, you’ll see actual players that you can interact with but more often than not, you’ll only see the bots and you’ll only notice that players have been there due to the comments in your guest book.

This is another painting that I really adore. It’s by John Singer Sargent and it’s titled “Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)” and there’s just something about it that I just love.

And of course, there is a chat function where you can discuss all kinds of topics with other people… but since it’s Free-to-Play and since it’s online, won’t there be any trolls or toxic people there?

Well,… the developers have heard all of these concerns before and I’ve heard that they are working on a system to remove comments that you don’t like from your guest book while also detecting hateful messages. The comment feature was only recently introduced and the game keeps frequently getting updates! With each update, the developers are introducing more art pieces (old AND new!), new features, and items.

The community is super helpful and seems quite alright. Of course, you get the occasional “I was here” comment but once you’re able to remove that kind of stuff, those won’t be a problem. My initial concern about toxicity and trolls has also not been that much of an issue, yet, since there just don’t seem to be all that many people out there that know about this title or that appreciate art in that way. On top of that, you have to create an account for the game and while that is a bit annoying, it apparently is helping a lot with the process of keeping trolls out. Hence, I’m quite confident that the game won’t get tainted that easily by the internet!

The only issue that I had with the game is how many resources it requires to run properly, as in: Having a lot of paintings, objects and effects can make the game lag at times… but a lot of people avoid that by just creating small galleries on multiple accounts and by connecting them with portals.

It is still in Early Access and it still is getting updated… so that kind of justifies all of that jankiness. You have to wait a bit for stuff to load up and there are some issues here and there with floor-tiles glitching out a bit, but it’s usually not that bad compared to other EA titles.

All in all, I’d say that this is a great game and if you’re into art or if you want to look at cool paintings or meddle with some architecture you should definitely check this title out!

Oh, and if you want to visit my gallery: My name in-game is MagiWasTaken. And on another note, if you wanna check out some of the art that is featured in-game, visit this side.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Best Friend Forever

I’m not exactly a dog person. I always thought that I’m not fit and active enough for dogs and hence I never considered if I wanted to have a dog. Obviously, with how the market is, it would be hard to find a flat or anything that would be dog-friendly and alas, I’ll have to rely on other media to maybe live that experience of owning a dog and taking care of it. One of these mediums is Best Friend Forever, an attempt to mix the genre of dating sims and management-types.

Developer: Starcolt
Publisher: Alliance
Release Date: August 27th, 2020
Genre: Dating Sim, Visual Novel, Management
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC, Switch
Copy was provided by publisher.

After having worked at a big corporation and after some other experiences, you, the protagonist, decide to move to Rainbow Bay. Rainbow Bay is the dog-friendliest place in the world (?) and essentially, the to-go city for everyone who’s searching for a cute little doggo and potentially even happiness, success and other good things. At least, that’s what the city means to our main character.

Early on, you’re prompted to type in your pronouns, blood type, Zodiac, and name before you’re getting unleashed into this short Visual Novel where you adopt a dog, take care of it, and where you try to find love… or something like that. On top of that, you also get to meet a vast cast of different characters that are all quite special in their own ways! Awoo!

From the get-go, I noticed that this game is quite different. We had some weird questions that we needed to answer for our Woofr profile, at the beginning. It’s a Visual Novel after all that is all about your little bowwow. You spend a lot of time picking up and throwing away your dog’s faeces or petting it or training it. Yes, you heard right: You can pet the doggo. It’s an interesting mix and I kind of like that about this title:

You get to date all kinds of characters and you get to min-max your dog’s training schedule to pass the dog school’s exam! Hell yeah!

While getting to know the characters, you stumble across different events and you have to decide where the conversation goes. Picking one of the options available to you usually results in people liking or disliking you – but you can also chicken out and go for a neutral approach that is somewhat boring, I guess.

And the game spans around 15 weeks that you have to spend training your tail-wagger. To do that, you plan your days with them by either going to encounters with the different people or by participating in Pawspirational Events (that have a chance of raising certain stats) or by participating in randomly-appearing Dog Events.

These Dog Events range from your furbaby getting scared to it leashing out a bit or to it pooing on the floor… usually, you have to either move your mouse cursor in certain motions or comfort it by petting it – and these events tend to award you with experience for the different stats:
Manners, Smartness, Trust, Sociability, and Fitness.

Apart from that you also have the training schedules that you can set for them where you essentially can choose to work on two different stats at the same time by IE going for a walk, cuddling, playing, and many other options. Afterwards, you need to take care of your good boy’s (or girl’s!) needs (see above) by feeding or tending to your mutt… Generally, all of this is quite fun at first but later it feels somewhat… pointless?

The story is light-hearted and short. It took me 2.5 hours to get through the game for the first time and to play through Astrid’s romance route. There are a whole bunch of other options that I could take or romantic partners that I could ask out next time, so there is some replayability to it, as well… but the flea circuit isn’t really involved in this. Your doggo is just there in the corner to brighten up and lighten up the game at times… and the management-aspects that are required to pass the exam at the end exist… but they do not really involve your pupper too much. You plan out events and sometimes people comment on your furry friend’s behaviour but effectively, it’s just there to be petted. As far as the exam goes… at the beginning I got mostly silver and gold medals and as time went on, I noticed it going down to bronze medals…

Regardless of that, I got my passing grade, which I found somewhat weird. I get that the Academy is only there to determine whether or not it’s alright for you to own a dog and I get that it is a very light-hearted game but it seems odd to me to just pass it like that. I would have loved more of a challenge or maybe an extension period and supplementary classes instead where you make up for the missing training, maybe get to know a nice dog coach that you can fall in woof with, and unlock more dialogue options. It would have been quite nice… and while I don’t know if you can fail the Academy, I don’t really wanna try it out as I don’t want to my pupper to be taken away from me. On top of that, it would be interesting to see what happens if you neglect your pawl’s needs… but I can’t let my little bowwow starve or get ignored just like that… Some horrible human out there will probably have tried it out… so uh… check there?

I didn’t notice the dog pooping less indoors when the manners stat got up, for instance, so that’s something that I would have liked a lot: Actually seeing the results of the training.

Your little fuzzball (She was called “Titan” in my case!) essentially just provides you with a minigame of sorts that to pass the time for a bit or to stretch out the game, which was somewhat disappointing… And I loved the idea at first and everything but midway through the game, your dog is just there while the focus switches to the other characters, which I found quite bothersome. It’s “best friend forever” but suddenly, it’s more of a dating sim – your dog is secondary. Or rather it feels like it’s not about the dog anymore, which I found actually rather add… tending to your dog becomes a chore while obnoxious people step more into the foreground. (I really don’t like Sascha at all… can we kick him? Like out of the city? Just push him off the edge of the world?)

Another issue that I was facing was that I had a hard time dealing with the writing at the beginning. The game is at times mocking the whole hipster culture or ridiculing it to the point where I thought that it’s not taking itself seriously – and yet, there are characters that talk about their actual fears and their actual problems… and some of the joking and obnoxious characters (the secretary and your neighbour, for instance) just end up breaking that feeling of intimacy that you had with your partner. You talk about problems and in the next instance, you get to talk to Sasha again, which is just painful at best.

I couldn’t really handle some of the writing at the beginning due to the in-your-face-hipster-ness. It was a bit too much for my cup of tea but I guess some people could enjoy that.

Towards the mid-game, it was acceptable and tolerable. I had fun with some of the references and stuff… and your relationship moves relatively fast forward, which is quite interesting as well.

And at last, I reached the end and it just didn’t feel alright or finished yet. I would have loved to continue past the 15 weeks but instead, we see the “what happened to these characters later?” trope before the credits roll. Quite annoying. And again, the dog gets less important later on despite it filling in a key role in the game.

But while that was a bit bad, I guess, I really enjoyed the game overall. It was fun, it was cute. It conveyed a message of sorts that you don’t buy a dog but rather adopt it since it’s very close to you. It’s like a family member of sorts, you could say – not your property or anything like that.
On top of that, the game is really inclusive as it not only lets you chose your character model and pronounce but it also enables all relationships to you whenever you want them and while your sexuality never gets asked for, it is made really well in a way that your past partners, as an example, get named with “they/them” to allow any kind of interpretation.

So, what can I say about Best Friend Forever… it mixes two things that are somewhat different and is hence quite innovative, in my opinion, but it fails to convey the importance of your Woover as it doesn’t give it more credit or more special scenes. Instead, it’s just about you training it while you’re doing stuff with your love encounter. I would have loved to see more CGs of the Barksy to make things, right… in fact… CGs and a CG gallery are features that are missing completely! Especially, considering that you’re a photographer in the game…

The inclusive aspects, however, are really well-made, the soundtrack is alright, the characters all are somewhat quirky but feature a lot of nice traits and conversation options, and overall, it is a well-crafted game, in my opinion, even when the management aspects fell somewhat short. The short length of the game makes it possible to play through different routes and try out different things in several relaxed sessions. And yes, you can, of course, pet the pupper. Hence, this must be a great game.

I’d recommend this game to people that want to play a wholesome, cosy and rather short visual novel that has dogs in it. I wouldn’t recommend this to management fans as those would not be happy with this title. If you’re a cat person like me… it might take you a while to fall in love with your four-legged new family member… but once you get there, it’s super lovely. Despite some issues, I had fun, though, so I’m definitely recommending Best Friend Forever to anyone who’s looking for a short but lovely experience.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Looking out for “Traveller’s Rest”

I’ve enjoyed my fair share of shop or tavern keeping simulations from Recettear to Moonlighter to Shoppe Keep 1 & 2, so it was a bit of a no-brainer for me that I’d try out the demo for Traveller’s Rest. 

But what exactly is Traveller’s Rest?

In Traveller’s Rest, you take charge of a rundown Inn, serve guests food and ales, and where you farm your veggies, hops and grains yourself to become self-sufficient.

Since your tavern/inn’s kind of run-down, you’ve got decorate, clean and unlock a bunch of features as you progress through the quests that the game offers to you. As you gain experience and level up, you also unlock skills, tech trees, and features like ordering ingredients, renting rooms to guests, hiring staff and a ton of other things!

The demo starts off somewhat slowly as you’re being told how to build, clean and serve – the basics, basically. Over time, the Inn gets rather busy with guests swarming in and you having to clean after them when they trash your place, calm them down when they get mad and get rich when they pay up and leave!

I feel like Traveller’s Rest has a bunch of everything in there. The music is nice, the progressing feels steady and overall, it’s a nice little game with all kinds of features. It honestly kind of reminded me of Graveyard Keeper since the style is similar and since the malting and fermenting are quite similar as well. The only thing missing are the corpses that you throw down the river, but I doubt that would fit into Traveller’s Rest. 

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this two-in-game-days-long demo, despite the fact that it was a tad annoying that you’ve got to wait so long for the fermenting or malting or whatever to be done. I guess, a speed-up-option of sorts for those kinds of things would be quite nice, like meditation or something. 

The game’s coming out in Mid 2020. Be sure to wishlist and follow the game on Steam if you’re interested in supporting a solo-project. 

Cheers!

Looking out for “For the People”

By now the Steam Game Festival has already ended, but fear not! There will be more posts about the demos that I played! Alas, this post is about For the People – a game about time management and political choices. We take control of the newly appointed mayor of Iron-1, Francis Rivers, who has to try to appease all kinds of different parties from the working class to the military to other people that don’t just seem to get along.

Brezg Studio describes it as an “acute social novel with strategic elements”, which honestly fits really well as you sign documents, make difficult choices, appoint agents for different missions to deal with certain tasks, on top of managing all kinds of appointments, tasks and, at last, more paperwork.

You need to manage your time efficiently while also strategically distributing resources to the people in order to earn their trust and increase your influence over them. Of course, you can’t please everyone. I tried to do that… but it just seems as if you’ve got to take some sides here and there, which obviously results in the displeasure of other parties.

In my case, I ended up trying to provide sufficient healthcare to everyone, no matter their race, gender or class, but I couldn’t appease the military force or the fire force who were in need of resources. I also made some difficult decisions here and there where I denied funds to some people who would obviously abuse them for some bad things… meanwhile other times, I made the wrong choice and accepted proposals that were based on lies and misinformation.

It all comes down to this: You can’t do everything right. You can’t appease everyone. Just go your way and see what happens!

There are five different endings in the full game, although the demo only lets you play through the first few days, so I couldn’t really see what’s going to happen. I’m quite excited about how it all plays out. I’d love to see if there are any possible romance options as well, since I kind of ship Francis with our assistant, Helen.

And then there’s the style. It’s just insanely great. You’ve got these visual novel style cutscenes here and there with incredibly stylized moments in the next scene and cuts to different points in time, which I found rather impressive for a small studio’s first game!
My explanation of all of this probably doesn’t make much sense unless you see it for yourself, so to make it easier to understand: The presentation is great. Just go see for yourself!

And then there’s the soundtrack. It was great! Yeah, I can’t really describe it too well, either…

Honestly, I’m really excited about this game. It kind of reminded me of “Papers, Please” and “Through the Darkest of Times” as well as (potentially) “Beholder”. All lovely games and all so unique that TtDoT probably fits the most style-wise and theme-wise, though the other games may fit more choice-wise and gameplay-wise.

Either way, this is a game that I’ve got wishlisted for sure. The Release Date (2020) is relatively unspecific, so I just hope that it arrives soon!

Looking out for “Starmancer”

Starmancer looked like the closest thing to any of the games that I’m usually enjoying and all the demos I’ve seen on the Steam Game Festival. It’s getting published by Chucklefish which fits most of my favourite games… it’s a strategy, base-building simulation game based in Space and you essentially play as a powerful A.I. who’s controlling a base while researching, expanding and upgrading everything.

You try to survive starvation, sabotage and other threats – and worst case, you’ll just regrow your humans.

Developer: Ominux Games
Publisher: Chucklefish
Release Date: "Coming Soon"
Genres: Simulation, Strategy, Base-Building, Space, Indie

The idea of either “following protocol or going rogue” was really interesting to me, so I thought I’d give Ominux Games’ “Starmancer” a shot and I’m pleasantly surprised.

That’s us!

You start up with researching some technologies and building up biomass synthesizers that fuel your production and are essential for your success. You then link up your machines with pipes and wires while managing your colonists.

You send out humans on missions, make money and advance your production further to ensure a happy life to your colonists.
The full game will feature diplomacy, exploration, and modding support as well as the features that are already in available in the demo like personal relationships, memories, rumours, jobs, unique colonists, procedural generation, Insanity and Mutiny.

All beginning is hard!

All the good stuff!

The demo features 60 minutes of gameplay, although you may restart it whenever you want. You’re also granted a lot of starting money for the sake of exploration, as well as unlocked misc items to ensure your colonists’ happiness.

It all plays surprisingly well for an Alpha. There are no bugs from what I’ve seen, yet, and the mechanics work rather well. I still need to create a successful colony to date as I’m always failing in the worst possible way.
In one run, one of my colonists started picking fights with everyone as they were hungry. This lead to them making enemies out of everyone and eventually it started to pick fights with all the other colonists (who were all pacifists), resulting in two dead and one living colonist.

Charistmatic but disgusting? Also an aggressive douchebag? Ah, whatever!

I wanted to revive both colonists but sadly the mad one also turned into a cannibal and started eating them while having this urge of bloodlust… So, I had to starve the mad cannibal out until I could regrow the other ones. Starving her out didn’t work out well… So then I just vented the oxygen into space, so that she suffocates and dies that way. That worked.

When I generated more oxygen a fire started spreading and destroyed the human growth machine, resulting in no way for me to grow more and alas one run ending.

In the next one, I ran out of money and had no way to recover… and in a different one, I ran out of time and had to restart the demo as I played it for yet another hour.

So, I guess, you could say that I had a blast! I really enjoyed this game. I’d describe it as a mix of Oxygen Not Included and RimWorld.

Not again!

I really liked the fact that your colonists can get better at the jobs they’re doing which would then unlock more research options and alas more blueprints and items! I would have liked it a tad more if I had a better way to see the colonists happiness and if there were more ways to increase their happiness, like giving them some rest here and there or even changing their schedule completely.

So, this is essentially a winner. I’m really looking forward to the full release which is “coming soon”.

Realm of the mad cannibal!

Wishlist it and get notified when it comes out! The Alpha Demo is also still available for download on Steam, so try it out if you want to! 🙂

Looking out for “Hundred Days”

Coming from a region where a lot of wine (primarily Riesling) is made, I thought that this one is a title that I HAVE TO TRY OUT. “Hundred Days” is “a game of choice, nostalgia and winemaking”, which is honestly a perfect match for me.

Broken Arms Games’ title “Hundred Days” features different action-cards that you play out to place tiles into your schedule. Obviously, you only have so much time in the day for the different tasks, resulting in you having to carefully place tiles like Harvesting, Weeding, Marketing, and some other options.

Developer: Broken Arms Games
Publisher: Broken Arms Games
Release Date: "Soon"
Genres: Agriculture, Management, Economy, Simulation

There are a lot of different things that you need to get used to in the game, like the fermentation-process that looks and sounds more difficult than it actually is.

When I first started playing the demo, I ended up just trying things out only to find out what the results would be like. I personally like sweeter wines more, so I tried to get a couple of sweet ones… sadly, there were no white wines in the demo, from what I could tell, so I ended up creating mid-tier wines with not enough acidity and way too much sweetness, which is fine, I guess? These wines would go well with your dinner, probably!

A lot of the processes that are being pictured in the game appear to be accurate from what I gathered. As mentioned, I’m from a region that has a lot of vineyards and alas I know a thing or two about the process of wine-making. I used to be a waiter at a restaurant and a lot of the winemakers came around and told me a thing or two about the whole industry, so that was quite fascinating.

In a way, the game got me to dwell in nostalgia but I’m not entirely sure how it would sell to other people, especially as not everyone has a connection to wine and since not everyone might connect the dots when it comes to making a choice and seeing it getting reflected in the stats on the side. Alas, that would need a bit more clarity!

Features that I’d be interested in seeing would include upgrades to get more workers, bigger fields, and more stock. I’d also like it if you could do research projects or maybe even customize your vineyard. Another great thing would be if you could branch out into liquor and create distilleries. That’d be a nice little touch, especially as a lot of winemakers seem to get into “the good stuff” as well as a side-job, which is quite nice, actually!

Overall, it’s been an enjoyable demo! I’m looking forward to seeing more when the game gets fully released!

Cheers!

Indietail – Train Valley 2

Do you like trains? Do you like simulations? Do you like resource-management-puzzles? If this introduction reminds you of yesterday’s post, then you’ll probably realise quickly that we’re reviewing Train Valley 2 today and that I’m still as uncreative as yesterday!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Genre: Trains, Strategy, Simulation, Puzzle, Casual
Release Date: April 15, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.

Train Valley 2 is a puzzle-train-sim developed by Flazm, the developer of the prequel, Train Valley 1. Alas, the premise is still relatively the same. You’ve got different stations that need to be connected using railroads. Building tracks, bridges and tunnels as well as destroying houses and other objects costs money that you earn by successfully guiding trains from one station to the other stations.

The main difference is probably the fact that you don’t have the semi-random tunnels, bridges and stations popping up everywhere.

Instead, you’ve got the task of constructing those yourself. Apart from that, you now have to deliver resources from one station to the next, to get processed resources that then need to end up at different towns. You transport workers from trains to the fields to work on grains. You then deliver the grains and more workers to the farms to get cows. At last, you bring the cows back to the towns to complete the production goals.

But the game’s not limited to only workers, grains and cows but also features a plethora of other resources and processed items that need a lot more steps to get produced!

In the first game, trains started driving off into the distance, causing chaos and destruction, if you took too long. Meanwhile here you have full control, alas having to send them off on your own in a slower-paced fashion, which is rather relaxing and quite a bit of an improvement. The game doesn’t get easier, though, as it’s more about the decisions you make. You need to manage your funds and decide on which station to build from and to, first, before taking action. Alas, Train Valley 2 can create a relaxing and less frustrating experience while still featuring logic puzzles that are as satisfying and difficult as the ones featured in the predecessor!

Overall, it seems as if the developer, Flazm, stocked up on the quality of life improvements while also adding a lot of features that make the game more entertaining. Challenging yourself in the levels and collecting stars now enables you to unlock different train designs, for instance. Things like these make the challenges worth it, while also providing completionists with some better rewards!

In contrast to the first game’s more realistic art style, Train Valley 2 features a rather vibrant colour palette as well as a less detailed poly-based art style.

When delivering materials to the different towns, these towns get upgraded, just like in the predecessor, but it seems to be overall more rewarding. Levels aren’t tied to themes, eras and locations anymore but, instead, feature a more general approach, named by some landmark, like “lighthouse” or “Eiffeltower”. Despite that, the cities and towns still develop in different styles that aren’t necessarily “European” or “Asian”, which I personally really dug.

Another new change: You don’t go through a century per level but instead work yourself through different ages from the steam age to the electrical era to, finally, the age of space. You can find a total of 50 levels in Train Valley 2, and you have access to infinite more levels due to the Steam Workshop and the player-created levels.

The music, however, is still not my favourite part of the game…or even the franchise.

In the beginning, the soundtrack seems to fit the game, but over time you can’t listen to it anymore. The tracks (pun intended) are all way too relaxed and calm. At some point, I got so tired of the soundtrack that I ended up turning it off and listening to some other music that fits the game just as much but is a lot less monotone. The problem with the soundtrack is probably the fact that it all sounds similar if not even the same. If someone played the Train Valley soundtrack, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it at all, which, in my opinion, is what makes a great soundtrack great. It either fits the game atmospherically or it adds more value to your experience. Train Valley 2’s soundtrack seems to fit but gets annoying over time and alas, in my opinion, is not good.

On top of that, there are some issues with the bridge/tunnel-construction.
It’s a tad difficult to see the terrain differences and where you can lay down tracks. In some places, you need to create bridges and tunnels although it may look like you’re able to just place tracks up the slope. When you want to construct bridges or tunnels, it can also become rather fiddly, to the point that it almost becomes frustrating.

That being said, I don’t think that this is a major flaw and while it can be a bit annoying in the beginning, you’ll get used to the controls over time and eventually learn how to use it just fine. My overall experience with the game was really satisfying and I did enjoy my time a lot, especially since I noticed the improvements from the first game.

Both Train Valley and Train Valley 2 are great games that you can get for around ten bucks. Train Valley 2 brings a lot of value to the table on top of the workshop content, which is just fabulous for games like this. If you like puzzle games and/or trains, I’d say go for it.

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Train Valley

Trains are quite cool, aren’t they? They look cool and they’re fast and it’s a disaster when they crash into each other and I lost my train of thought, so I’ll just say that today we’re taking a look at Train Valley, a casual train-sim-puzzle by Flazm!

Developer: Flazm
Publisher: Flazm
Release Date: September 16, 2015
Genres: Puzzle, Trains, Simulation, Casual, Strategy
Reviewed on: PC
Available on:  PC, iOS
Copy was purchased. 

The overall premise of the game is rather simple.
The player has to build railways in order to connect different stations within a plethora of cities and times. They then have to manage the increasing traffic by creating crossroads and switches and by destroying old or building new tracks… and while the player is doing all of that, they also have to try to not go bankrupt while fulfilling different goals such as “no train crashes” or a certain amount of money that needs to be earned or others.

The 2015-title features four different chapters with six levels each, letting you construct train-tracks in a total of 26 different levels and in four different eras and areas:
Europe (1830 – 1980), the United States (1840 – 1960), the USSR (1880 – 1980) and Japan (1900 – 2020). You also are able to get Germany (1880 – 2020) as a DLC for a total of 30 levels.

The different areas are insanely adorably designed feature a lot of details like different build styles and landmarks that the areas are known for. On top of that, the buildings also change their shape and style the longer the level goes on, indicating the progressing time, which is an interesting detail.

And well,… you control trains. It’s quite cool.

By sending trains to their destinations you earn money while you lose money yearly or when the trains arrive late. By sending out trains to different areas, you also seem to develop those areas, resulting in villages turning into towns and towns turning into cities, which is quite neat. I really enjoyed this part of the game as I was able to see big skyscrapers rise when we just had small houses a while ago.

And while the premise is rather simple… the game can be quite tough actually.

There are some levels that are hard to crack as your funds are limited and as you have to watch so many different things. Destroying buildings costs you a ton, so you have to be careful or you end up bankrupt again, which is essentially your biggest enemy in the game.

If you’re not that much into puzzling but you still very much enjoy train games, fear not, this game has got you covered!

There is a sandbox mode for this game. Alas, you can create tracks and send out levels without any pressure on every level of the game, resulting in a rather pleasant experience. You can’t create your own levels, from what I’ve seen, but it’s still rather relaxing and enjoyable.

The experience is further enhanced by a total of fifteen different types of trains from steam-powered locomotives to modern-day high-speed-trains… and there are also eighteen different types of cars as well as a lot of other details hidden in the game, resulting in an overall rather pleasant experience.

Despite the initial praise, however, I’ve got to say that there are some issues here and there.

The music, for instance, is rather annoying once you played for a while. Each area has a different soundtrack and while it is quite neat in the beginning, I had enough of it after only two hours, resulting in me muting the game…

And then there are some levels that seem a tad too frustrating… I would have liked a “hint”-button of sorts and I would have enjoyed it if you could access the next level even without playing the level before that. Sure, the next level is harder than the previous one… but I really hate that one Tokyo level, so I don’t want to play it anymore and just go for the next one. Sadly, I can’t do that, which I personally find annoying.

Apart from that, there aren’t any other flaws, in my opinion. I played the game for a total of ten hours and really enjoyed my time, despite it being so simple. For ten bucks you get a bunch of value out of it. It’s quite relaxing and adorable, the presentation is nice, the puzzle-parts can be tricky and despite my rather long playtime for such a short game, I’m still not done with it!

Therefore, I can really recommend this game to everyone who likes trains. It’s a fun puzzle game with very relaxing train-sim-aspects to it as well as a super adorable presentation, only flawed by the music that I personally didn’t really like.

I hope you enjoyed this review. It’s a tad shorter but in the end, that’s alright, isn’t it? Have a nice day!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Indietail – Ayre

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could fly on a majestic creature like a dragon? Have you ever wanted to surge through the skies and explore vast areas? Have you ever dreamed of true freedom with no boundaries whatsoever? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or if you’re just wondering what I’m on about, then you might like this following review of Ayre!

Developer: Gordon Little aka Gord Games
Publisher: Gordon Little
Genres: Casual, Adventure, Indie, Dragons, Flying, Simulation, Third Person
Release Date: May 27, 2020
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy received from the Devs

Ayre is a new dragon flight simulation that is coming out on Steam soon. Mount your bonded dragon, Red, and explore vast areas while testing your flight skills in sky races hidden across the lands and discover the history of an ancient civilisation with their own customs and traditions as well as a story that is quite interesting. And then there’s the Crystal Comet, an organism of sorts that has been scattered across the lands and asks you to unify it again. 

Yeah, true freedom. It’s great. You’ve got an open world with gigantic, snow-covered mountains, vast plains, beautiful valleys and sparkling rivers that is completely accessible to you and your scaley companion. Across the world, you find collectable crystals and Monoliths telling you the story of a civilisation of the past. 

It’s an interesting experience to be able to go anywhere you want with little to no guidance and no boundaries set by abilities that you need. The controls may take a while to get used to if you – like me – don’t play too many flight-simulation-games but once you get the hang of it, it is rather fun. If you want to challenge yourself, there are plenty of ring-races that require you to reach a goal as fast as possible. If you then still want to step up your game, then I recommend checking out the advanced flight options that are less simplified and need you to watch the speed your flying at and control your dragon more precisely. 

Red looks like such a happy boiii in this one. Like some cute doggo but better!

The music and the colourful, simplified presentation make the game shine in a new light as well as you get to enjoy the world without having to fear any threats or dangers. If you fall off a cliff, your dragon is there for you and rescues you in time, too!

And the different biomes are rather intriguing. During the time I played, I found some ruins here and there as well as forests and a wasteland of sorts. There are different structures hidden in all kinds of places, from a temple in the mountains to a small port in a river. You may swim across some Deltas and travel by foot, too. If you get too far from your dragon, you just whistle and Red comes to pick you up. It’s just enjoyable. 

Crystal in a temple fits quite well!

Overall, I really enjoyed the game to this point but I noticed that it still needs some polishing and some more updates here and there. I’d be intrigued to see how this game fairs in VR and how people would enjoy it in that context but at the same time, me and my fear of heights don’t want to try that out, haha.

It’s only going to come out and I only got a key for review purposes, so some of the following issues might have been gotten rid of in the future, so I’ll probably revisit this game by then as well… but yeah, there are flaws. 

I love this area so much!

For instance, it feels really slow to travel on foot. Quite often I’d call my dragon and I’d just fly a small distance to get closer to a crystal I wanted to collect, or I’d just ride it on the ground to reach a point. 

There are also some spots here and there where the world feels a bit janky. Your character, for instance, can’t seem to climb up ledges all that much and often seems to struggle with going up the smallest hills. There are also areas where your dragon struggles, like when you run into a hill while attempting to fly up and your dragon just lands again, which can be a bit annoying but you get the hang of the flying and starting rather quickly, so that may be overlooked.

We’re a fast boy! And if we beat this race, we get a speed upgrade for our dragon!

I also noticed that some features seem to not be implemented into my version just yet, like different markers on the map or story-parts on different monoliths. I’d find a monolith in a new area but can’t seem to interact with it at all, so I guess it’s going to get added very soon after or even on release. 

And then there’s an issue that I have with the crystals. Some of them are placed in interesting ways like on the palm of a giant statue or at the top of some ruins but it can be quite hard to get to them due to different polygons of the game and the weird difficulty your character seems to have with them. There also some spaces here and there where you’d seemingly get showered in crystals while other areas are rather scarce of any at all. I would love it if you had to collect less in total and if the crystals would be rarer or if the movement speed of the character got buffed a bit more so that it feels less like a hassle in these areas. 

So fabulous!

For the first story-piece from the Crystal, as an example, you need to collect five crystals while you need fifty crystals for the second fragment of a story. It seems like a bit of a jump and I would rather have enjoyed smaller steps like a new fragment every 25 crystals since the story is the hook that keeps you playing. Without the story and the exploration part, you might get bored eventually after two to three hours of flying around. 

But regardless of that, I would say that it’s a solid premise and, while it needs some polishing, it is definitely worth checking out for anyone who likes the idea of it and enjoys truly open worlds without invisible walls

Yup, a pidgeon on a skateboard.

So, in the end, I’ll have to revisit it in the future once it got updated a bit more or once it hits the release and possibly gets polished more. I can definitely feel the love that got put into this world and the game in general and I really enjoyed my time. While there are flaws, I would say that this game is like a gem that just needs a tad more polishing. I feel like that describes it quite well. 

The game already is available for 12 USD on itch.io, which in my opinion is a fair price for what you get out of it. The steam price will probably be somewhere around that, I guess.
I definitely will come back to this game every now and then as it’s quite relaxing and rather colourful, especially when it gets updated more in the future!

STORY TIME!

I hope you enjoyed this review. Thanks a lot to the dev, Gordon Little, for providing me with a review key for this game. Please check out the steam store page and wishlist this title when it comes out. And please take care, the whole pandemic-business is still not over. 🙂

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.